Wanted: 100 people to buy another person’s meal each week at Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield

  • Stone Soup Cafe volunteers Whitney Robbins, from left, Marjorie Morgan and Maegan Boutot pack up takeout meals in May at All Souls Church in Greenfield. The pay-what-you-can cafe has launched a campaign encouraging members of the community to pay for another person’s meal each week. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Takeout meals prepared by Stone Soup Cafe at All Souls Church in Greenfield. The pay-what-you-can cafe has launched a campaign encouraging members of the community to pay for another person’s meal each week. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

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Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2021 4:46:42 PM

GREENFIELD — Stone Soup Cafe is offering the community a chance to pay-it-forward.

This spring, the pay-what-you-can cafe that operates out of All Souls Church launched a campaign encouraging members of the community to pay for another person’s meal each week.

“It’s a continuation of our pay-what-you-can model in that there are people who have extra who can help community members who can’t afford to pay for their meals,” said Executive Director and Chef Kirsten Levitt. “We’re very much of a mind of mutual aid at the cafe, where neighbor helps neighbor.”

Each week, the cafe packages and then distributes or delivers more than 400 meals to the community out of the basement of the church at 399 Main St. Every meal comes with three courses — a soup or a salad, a vegan or meat main course, and a dessert — plus a drink, at whatever cost works for the individual.

According to the campaign, the cafe typically receives less than $1 per meal, and meals cost the cafe roughly $12 to make. The difference is subsidized through donations and grants, which often run out quickly.

Through the campaign, the cafe is hoping to inspire at least 100 people to pay for another person’s meal each week.

“The goal is $1,000 per week,” Levitt said. “Currently, we’re serving between 350 and 400 meals per week.”

Concurrently with this campaign, Levitt added, the cafe is reaching out to local businesses to partner with and to sponsor meals.

Levitt said people tend to assume that because Stone Soup is a community meal service, “you get all your food for free.” The reality, however, is not all food used by the cafe is donated or subsidized.

“You have the same bills any other for-profit business has,” she said.

The cafe has a $250,000 budget this fiscal year, she said, and although that’s about double its pre-pandemic budget, between continuing the delivery program, which allows the cafe to deliver to the majority of the county, the emergency food program and the increased cost of food, the cafe is asking for the community’s help in feeding its neighbors.

“For those people who can afford to pay, we’re encouraging them to pay it forward, to pay for their neighbor’s meal, to help reduce hunger (and) to increase awareness of the stigma around hunger,” Levitt said. “There’s such a huge cost to hunger that goes beyond the cost of food. There’s an emotional cost; there’s a psychological cost to it, and there’s a health cost.”

She noted that people who lack access to good nutrition have higher medical costs and more life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease.

“The cafe is creating delicious, nutritionally balanced meals for people that meet all of their needs,” Levitt said.

Levitt noted that the cafe continues to work in a COVID-19-safe manner, meaning volunteers are spread out and a significant portion for the dining room has been transformed into meal prep for packaging and delivery.

“Unlike for-profit restaurants, in that they’re able to go to in-person dining, or stop their delivery programs, we don’t have that capability,” she explained. “Hungry people who cannot come and get their meal need to be able to have delivery.”

Delivery has become such an important part of their service, Levitt said she can’t imagine not offering it anymore.

“It behooves us to take care of the many, the larger group,” she said. “Our mission is to feed people.”

People can send a one-time donation, or sign up for reoccurring payments at the campaign page: bit.ly/pay-it-forward-2021.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.


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